Aristotle to Philip of Macedon, 347 BC

Don't let the impish smile fool you, he's a real handful in class

Dear Mr. the Great,

Enclosed is your son Alexander’s report card for the fall semester. I hope you will be as disappointed with your son’s grades as I am. He’s such a bright boy, but his behavior in the classroom holds him back. There is much potential in him, but you need to make sure he stays on the straight and narrow or he’ll end up in trouble.

Two days ago, in the middle of our discussion on justice, he grabbed another boy’s writing slate and “claimed it in the name of Macedon.” When I told him it would be unethical to keep it, he simply smashed it on the ground. When I asked him to justify his actions from an empirical standpoint, he broke wind very loudly, causing the other boys to laugh and completely disrupting the lesson.

Yesterday at recess, during a game of Greeks and Trojans, he yelled out that he was “Achilles, taker of prizes,” then stabbed a boy with a spear. After mocking the boy for “being a Persian,” he abducted a little neighborhood girl and claimed she was his war trophy. In my classroom, students are meant to show some respect.

It’s up to you how to deal with the boy. As I said, he’s one of the brightest nine-year-olds I’ve ever taught, but if he doesn’t learn discipline, he is in danger of not passing the grade. I would imagine a failing mark on his report card would prevent him from achieving his future goals.

Yours sincerely,

Aristotle

Analysis:

This letter was for many years part of a private letter collection belonging to Mr. Hurt Hurwood of Newton, MA. Under the terms of his will, it is called the Ugh, Teachers Are Just The Worst Collection. Mr. Hurwood was told by his second grade oboe teacher that he would amount to nothing, and when he became the greatest oboist in the world (at age nine), he became obsessed with the notion that teachers were wrong about everything and whatever they believed about their students, the opposite would come true.

Hurwoodians, people who follow the beliefs of Hurt Hurwood, have tested the extensions of this belief, including that if you could convince your teacher you were doomed to failure then you would instead have a wonderfully successful life. And indeed it turns out that many class clowns have gone on to become successful office clowns (as in, people who dress as clowns and come to offices to cheer up people with real jobs).

Many Hurwoodians believe Hurt Hurwood’s letters should be in safekeeping at the Hurwoodian Institute in Institute, Indiana. They are obviously wrong.

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